The 44th Annual West Indian American Day Carnival roars into Crown Heights today for five days of steel bands, spicy food and elaborate costumes, Nicole Lyn Pesce reports in the New York Daily News.
The festivities are a hybrid of the French Mardi Gras tradition of cutting loose before Lent with the slave culture of the colonized Caribbean islands, creating a boisterous bacchanal where teams of masqueraders form costumed bands that flaunt their creativity – and curves.
“It’s all over-the-top: feathered headdresses and beaded undergarments for the women. We have fire-spirit costumes for the men, and the kids take their themes from a day at the zoo, so we have butterflies, spiders and peacocks,” says Hayden John, 30, a leader of the Phoenix International Mas Band, who crafts the costumes for his 120-member band by hand on St. Johns Place.
First-place costumes can score airline tickets and other lavish prizes, so competition is fierce.
Musicians from Brooklyn to Boston also will compete in a battle of the steel bands on Saturday, and Guyanese, Jamaican, Trinidadian and other Caribbean kitchens vie for visitors’ taste buds.
Even locals get in on the act.
“Last year, I bought 200 quart containers, stocked up on fresh lemons and sugar, and I and made some money selling lemonade,” says Michelle Gelker, 22. “It was a blast.”
The parade is just the beginning. Prepare to spend the long Labor Day weekend in Crown Heights.
THE OFFICIAL WELCOME TO NEW YORK EVENT: Meet and greet renowned international West Indian artists tonight at this carnival kickoff, where a roster of deejays and rhythm sections welcomes visitors from across the globe to Crown Heights this weekend. Headliners Road March King, The Soca Monarch King and Groovy Monarch Kings come together on stage with acts including DJ Spice and Dr. Jay from Toronto, the Trinibago Massive Rhythm Section, Mad Man Middy and more.
7 p.m.-1 a.m.; $25.
STAY IN SCHOOL CONCERT: The kids kick up their heels before heading back to class next week with this family-friendly jam featuring hip-hop music and steel-pan bands, plus a fashion show, spoken-word slam, karate demonstrations and more.
10 a.m.-2 p.m.; free.
BRASSFEST: This ultimate dance party jumps and jives all night with Machel Montano HD, Lady Saw and Patrice Roberts leading an all-star lineup of calypso, soca and hip-hop artists. A quick run-through of dance moves: “Jump up” is a jumping motion of dancing to soca and calypso, and “wining” is when you rotate or gyrate your waist to the rhythm. Now you’re set to break down with the Kutters Rhythm Section, MC Wassy & Giselle D’Wassi One.
8 p.m.-3 a.m.; $45.
JUNIOR CARNIVAL: The PG-version of Monday’s bacchanal dances along St. Johns Place from Kingston to Franklin Aves. before turning south to President St. and parading west to the Brooklyn Museum grounds. The mini-masqueraders – many dressed as pint-size animals with headdresses and wings as elaborate as the adults’ costumes – is the perfect preview for Monday’s main event with music, games and West Indian eats.
9 a.m.-3 p.m.; $2 to participate.
STEEL BAND PANORAMA COMPETITION: Don’t miss the annual battle of the steel-pan bands, where Brooklyn acts like Sesame Flyers, Metro Steel and D’Radoes vie against Long Island favorite Adlib Steel Orchestra and visiting Boston Metro. The Bench Warmers Riddim Section and scratchers DJ One Plus, MC Godfrey and Jack & Jemma Jordan keep revelers gyrating between bands.
8 p.m.-3 a.m.; $40.
CARIBBEAN GOSPEL FEST 2011: Tap into the spiritual side of this weekend’s revelry with this annual singing competition. This year’s gospel artists include Bridget Blucher, Samuel Clarke and Hilton Samuel, among others; donations are being collected for charities fighting to eradicate violence against children, such as the James E. Davis Foundation and the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund.
2-5 p.m.; $20.
DIMANCHE GRAS: The eight candidates for king and queen compete onstage in their band costumes (some 30 feet tall) on the eve of the parade. Another eight singers compete for the Calyspo Monarch title. The night also features stilt walkers, rhythm masters and musical guests Young Princess Devyn, Sparrow and David Rudder.
7 p.m.-1 a.m.; $35.
J’OUVERT: The French word for “daybreak” describes Carnival Day’s subdued predawn festival. The less elaborate costumes are inexpensive and often mock political issues, celebrities and current events. Only steel drums are played, although revelers are encouraged to accompany the rhythm section with whistles. The procession begins at Grand Army Plaza and travels through Flatbush to Empire Blvd., ending on Nostrand Ave. and Linden Blvd. Colored powder, paint and dye are thrown, so dress in clothes that can get messy.
2 a.m.; free.
WEST INDIAN AMERICAN DAY CARNIVAL PARADE: The 44th annual parade draws more than 3 million people along Eastern Parkway from Schenectady to Flatbush Aves. with dozens of elaborate costume bands and floats surrounded by hundreds of masqueraders, moko jumbies (stilt dancers) and more. The route is lined with stands selling jerk chicken, curried goat, oxtail, rice and peas and coconut bread. NOTE: Absolutely no alcoholic beverages are to be sold or carried on the parade route, and all spectators must stay behind the police barricades; only paid masqueraders are allowed to march.
11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
All parties (except for the parade) take place at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave., accessible by the 2/3/4 train at Eastern Parkway). Call (718) 467-1797 or visit wiadca.com for tickets and more information.
There’s no parking in the general area on Labor Day, but the 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines runs along the parade route at Utica, Kingston, Nostrand and Franklin Ave. stops.